The Saga of the American Chestnut Tree
When the first settlers came from Europe to North America, they saw some of the most beautiful forests ever to be seen by man. Oak, hickory, pine, chestnuts and many others. Chestnuts?!! Who saw Chestnuts? As a matter of fact, the American Chestnut was the dominant tree in the Eastern North America forests, from Canada to Georgia, to the plains of the West. The mature trees were as impressive as the Giant Sequoias of California. They were huge, and outnumbered both oak and hickory. They were the primary source of food for the forest dweller, who in turn were the food for the forest predators. The wood was unmatched for construction of homes, barns, railroad ties, fences, etc. For years, railroad cars filled with chestnuts would roll into the Eastern cities at Christmas time.
Unfortunately, like in an old time movie, a villain appeared which virtually eliminated the magnificent trees. The villain was a fungus imported from China on some Chinese Chestnuts around 1900, and the American Chestnut had absolutely no resistance to the disease. By 1920, only a few scattered pockets of trees were left from the billions that were present when the settlers came.
Small groups of dedicated scientists, farmers and others have spent decades trying to find ways to bring back this glorious tree, but to no avail. But recently, just as the hero in the movies saved the day, science has been able to bring back the American Chestnut. After all conventional methods failed, a gene from wheat was found to provide a way to destroy the poison of the fungus that killed the tree. There are now chestnut trees which are resistant to the fungus, and under the guidance of the EPA, USDA, and FDA, our grandchildren and their grandchildren will see the beautiful, huge, wonderful trees in our forests farms AND cities, which have been missing for far too long. The dedicated scientists who have devoted their lives to bringing back these wonders will never see them back to their full glory, but their hard work and diligence will insure that the American Chestnut is once again thriving in all its grandeur.
Illustration is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to www.flickr.com